She admits that there is data showing the negative effects on children of fatherlessness, with such children being on average:
five times as likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times as likely to drop out of school, and 20 times as likely to wind up in prison
But she thinks this doesn't tell the true story. This only proves in her opinion that two parent families do better than single parent families. The better comparison she believes is between families with a father and mother and families with two lesbian parents.
She then cites recent research showing that lesbian families do better than families with fathers. If true, this would indeed suggest that fathers don't make a necessary contribution as fathers. Their role wouldn't be as essential as once thought:
But the real challenge to our notion of the “essential” father might well be the lesbian mom. On average, lesbian parents spend more time with their children than fathers do. They rate disputes with their children as less frequent than do hetero couples, and describe co-parenting more compatibly and with greater satisfaction. Their kids perceive their parents to be more available and dependable than do the children of heteros. They also discuss more emotional issues with their parents. They have fewer behavioral problems, and show more interest in and try harder at school.
According to Stacey and Biblarz, “Two women who chose to become parents together seemed to provide a double dose of a middle-class ‘feminine’ approach to parenting.” And, they conclude, “based strictly on the published science, one could argue that two women parent better on average than a woman and a man, or at least than a woman and man with a traditional division of family labor.”
So should we just let women do the parenting? Well, let's not jump too fast to this conclusion. I happen to be aware of the kind of research Pamela Paul is relying on here. And it's not research carried out by neutral experts. It is advocacy research.
For instance, there was a lot of publicity given to some recent research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It claimed that the children of lesbian parents did much better than the children of heterosexual parents:
daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts
You could challenge this research in various ways. Lesbians are able to select donor sperm for high IQ in a way that heterosexual women cannot. Lesbian women are more likely to have professional jobs and to live in better neighbourhoods etc.
But there is a larger objection to the research than this. The research was actually funded by a number of LGBT organisations and carried out by two lesbian feminist researchers. One of these researchers, Nanette Gartrell, teaches feminist ethics on campus and has written a book titled, Everyday Mutinies: Funding Lesbian Activism. She has been voted one of the ten most powerful lesbian doctors in the US.
The other researcher is a Dutch lesbian by the name of Henny Bos (pictured left). She has given interviews for the Dutch media which have titles such as "De ideale vader is een moeder" ("The ideal father is a mother") and "Een vader heb je eigenlijk niet nodig" ("You don't actually need a father").
So the researchers and the funding organisations are not neutral. But what of the research itself? What Bos and Gartrell did was to go to places at which the most politically aware of lesbians might congregate (such as lesbian bookstores) and recruit lesbian parents to self-report their family outcomes. Yes, that's right, self-report.
Obviously, there's a decent chance that lesbian parents would put a positive spin on their family outcomes for political reasons. So the value of the research has to be doubted.
This is an important issue to take a stand on. If men don't really believe they have a necessary role in the family, the male commitment not only to family life but by extension to society itself will inevitably weaken. It is the male investment in society that makes the difference and that has to be our core concern.